Comm: Precious


Oil prices have risen spectacularly over the last year, with Brent crude now trading above $80 per barrel. However, the question for investors is what to do about the rise. Have they already missed the gains? Additionally, oil has the complication of being difficult to invest in directly because of the cost of rolling over futures positions. Therefore, the best way to take a position in oil markets is through several ETFs. The tickers to look at span from those covering major oil companies to those more weighted towards E&P companies. Here are some of the funds: VDE, XLE, IXC, IYE, XOP, OIH, and USO.

FINSUM: We suspect that exploration and production companies will gain the most from recent price rises as their businesses will be most directly impacted by gains (just like they were most hurt in the downturn).


Investors need to take note of the oil market, which has been spiking recently. Prices for Brent crude are now above $80 per barrel, a price that would have seemed unimaginable even a year ago, and a world away from the $20s we had in early 2016. The market is partly being driven higher by geopolitics, such as the new sanctions against Iran, but it is also a product of supply shortfalls. Higher prices are now coinciding with all the cost decreases firms made during the market rout, which is allowing them fat margins and the cash to pay dividends and pay down debt.

FINSUM: If the market can stay elevated, which seems likely for a while, then it will be transformative for the many oil and oil-related companies that have been struggling for years.


Many investors may still be shy about buying oil companies. After all, oil had a major fallout jut a few years ago and many factors, like green energy, seem to be playing against the future of oil. Accordingly, most oil companies are playing into this logic by cutting back on spending and boosting sources of alternative energy, but not Exxon. The company is boosting R&D spending and trying to grow its gas and oil output counter to all its rivals. Its logic is that demand for gas and oil is forecasted to grow considerably until 2030 as the world’s middle class surges to 5 bn people (versus 3 bn today). One fund manager comments on Exxon that “We think Exxon’s investment opportunities are world-class and that the best time to invest is when everyone else is retrenching”.

FINSUM: Exxon is trying to keep doing what it does best—produce oil. It is interesting they are taking a different approach to the market, but that means they are probably going to have high beta. If you believe in the strategy, it is an interesting buy.

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